Can you hear me now? A catchy phrase from a TV commercial in 2000 seems to be Mother Nature’s message to us today. If we look and listen carefully, she is trying to get our attention. While her signs, signals, and message are easily missed in the business of our daily lives, the consequences of our actions and inaction continue to grow.

It should cause us to pause when the once gin-clear waters of King's Bay have become murky. This expansive natural gem that once looked like an aquarium beaming with aquatic life from shore to shore has deteriorated to what we have today in just a couple of short decades — a terrible degradation of water quality.

For those who do not fish our coastal waters, it’s understandable to not miss the masses of giant tarpon that once flourished in our coastal waters in pursuit of the bountiful blue crabs produced by the once strong freshwater flow from our spring-fed rivers, (Lords of the Fly, Monte Burke 2020). The freshwater flow today is a fraction of what is once was, the blue crabs numbers have consequently dropped, and the tarpon numbers have diminished to a scant number of small passing pods of fish each spring.

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Recently, there was news of a large red tide fish kill found in an area a mere 10 miles off of our coast. A summertime algae bloom that flourishes in warm, nutrient rich waters had, until now, only been a problem for more populous coastal communities to our south.

Our once seemingly endless supply of groundwater for our daily lives, the Upper Floridan Aquifer, has degraded in both quality and quantity. The quality is degraded locally primarily by fertilizers, septic tanks, and stormwater runoff carrying pollutants from our homes, lawns, and roads. The quantity of available ground water is affected regionally mostly by landscape irrigation, and unsustainable residential and commercial growth beyond our county lines.

Do you hear the faint whisper getting louder? Can you hear me now?

While we have made great strides in cleaning and seagrass replanting in numerous canals around King's Bay and are progressing with the same effort in the Homosassa, our waters are in trouble as a direct result of our actions and inaction. But it’s not too late! 

It’s time for not just those of us concerned, but for every county resident who uses water or enjoys our waters to begin to take action! It’s time to lead by example, and inform others about the importance of taking care of our waters to reverse the trend of degradation.

As a community, we take great pride in the appearance of the landscaping at our homes and businesses. So much so that historically we’ve been using millions of gallons of freshwater for irrigation monthly, while our aquifer, springs, lakes, rivers, and environment suffer. Also, the nutrient and pollutant rich water that flows from our homes, lawns and roads continues to makes its way to our lakes, rivers, coastal, and ground waters. 

It’s time to consider landscaping with grasses and plants that thrive on our natural cycles of Florida rainfall. It’s time to capture and treat stormwater runoff that’s a product of our development.  It’s time to stop using quick release fertilizers on our lawns.  It’s time to encourage our elected officials to expedite the septic to sewer conversions. It’s time to demand that our regional water management district (SWFWMD) take immediate steps to begin restoring the volume of water held in our aquifer and the freshwater flow of one of nature’s greatest environmental gifts — our first magnitude springs.

Wouldn’t it be nice during our lifetime to be able to say, “Yes, I heard you and affected positive change for future generations.”

Jeff Kinnard is a Citrus County Commissioner and a current member of the Keep Citrus County Beautiful Board of Directors.

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